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Gilbert Selver Loses Unlawful Crown Land Occupation Case In Appellate Court

The TCIG is entitled to all attached buildings and/or infrastructural works on the parcels 60602/429; 60602/430 and 60602/431 attached to the land and no compensation is payable to Mr. Selver

In a resounding unanimous ruling, the Court of Appeal of the Turks and Caicos Islands has delivered a significant victory to the government, siding with the Attorney General in a pivotal case against Gilbert Selver.


The appeal, brought forth on behalf of the Turks and Caicos Island Government, successfully challenged the lower court's decision, solidifying the government's stance on fundamental matters surrounding crown land procedures and the far-reaching ramifications outlined in the Crown Land Ordinance.


The attorney General Chambers dubbed the ruling as representing a decisive moment in the legal saga and reaffirms the Government's commitment to upholding the rule of law and protecting public resources.


Giving the background of the case, the Attorney General Chambers noted that on the 29th April, 2022, former Supreme Court Judge, Hon. Carlos Simons OBE KC, ruled in favour of a local businessman Mr. Gilbert Selver who the Crown argued had been in unlawful occupation of three parcels of crown land, namely 60602/429; 60602/430; 60602/431 respectively.


Braithwaite-Knowles…The judgment reaffirms the Government's authority to act in the best interests of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands and ensures responsible stewardship of our finite land resources

The ruling that the freehold title to Crown Land parcels 60602/429, and 60602/430 be transferred to Mr. Selver at the 2008 offer prices of $30,800 and $73,5000 respectively. In respect of 60602/431 the Court ruled that Mr Selver was indeed a trespasser.


The Crown’s position in the Supreme Court was that Mr. Selver was a trespasser after failing to accept the offers for the sale of said Crown land presented to him prior to the coming into force of the 2012 Crown land Ordinance And after receiving Notices to discontinue the use and occupation of the said Crown Land which said notices had been ignored.


The Crown being dissatisfied with the said ruling, lodged an appeal against the decision of former Justice Simons OBE KC on the grounds that he failed to properly apply the contract principles of offer and acceptance; he failed to consider that the offers made by TCIG was subject to contract, and that he failed to consider the intervening impact of the Crown Land Ordinance which came into force in 2012.


On 26th October 2023, the Court of Appeal heard the detailed arguments on behalf of the Crown and Mr. Selver. Principal Crown Counsel, Civil Ms. Clemar Hippolyte and Principal Crown Counsel, Commercial, Ms. Yaa McCartney appeared on behalf of the Crown as representatives for the Appellant, and Mr. George Missick appeared for the Respondent Mr. Selver before the three- person Appeal panel comprising Hon. Mr. Justice K. Neville Adderley (President), Hon. Mr. Justice Stanley John, and Hon. Mr. Bernard Turner.


On 17th April, 2024 the Court of Appealed handed down its decision on the appeal, overturning the judgement in the Supreme Court, and ruling in favour of the Crown. In arriving at its decision, the Court found that, by letter dated 29th October, 2008, the Crown offered Mr. Selver the freehold title to parcels 60602/429 and 60602/430 for the purchase prices of $30,800 and $73,5000 respectively.


The Court found that in order to accept the offers, Mr. Selver was required to pay the survey fees and a registration fee. The letter also informed Mr. Selver that he was required to contact the Crown Land Unit in order to execute the necessary documents. The Court found that Mr. Selver had not immediately acted on the offer and had not accepted the offer of the Crown for the freehold.


The Court of Appeal also held that although the offer remained open by the Crown, time not being stated to be of the essence, Mr. Selver’s unequivocal acceptance was only communicated in 2013 which came after the coming into force of the 2012 Crown Land Ordinance (CLO). The Court of Appeal considered whether the coming into force of the CLO presented a significant change in circumstances which would have impacted Mr. Selver’s ability to accept the offer to constitute a legally enforceable contract. Following the decision of the Privy Council in CMK BWI Ltd. v Attorney General [2022] UKPC 40, the Court held that the date of the acceptance was highly relevant to determining the legality of the contract because the 2012 CLO now dictates the conditions and circumstances of all crown land dispositions.


The Court considered section 7(2) of the Ordinance which provides that “Crown land must not be disposed of unless the disposal is authorized by this Ordinance or any other Ordinance dealing with Crown land”, and held that the Crown “could not dispose of the parcels under the previous offers as the Ordinance cerate[d] the legislative framework for the disposition of Crown lands, including restrictions (section 9) and imposition of conditions (sectio10)”. Applying the law to the facts, the Court found that “no validly enforceable contract was entered into between Selver and the TCIG for the purchase of 429 and 430 as the offer to purchase the crown lands were rescinded by the passage of the CLO”.


In allowing the appeal, the Court ordered that:


The TCIG is entitled to possession of parcels 60602/429 ; 60602/430 and 60602/431. Mr. Selver must vacate parcels 60602/429; 60602/430 and 60602/431 within 90 days from the date of the Order.


The TCIG is entitled to all attached buildings and/or infrastructural works on the parcels 60602/429; 60602/430 and 60602/431 attached to the land and no compensation is payable to Mr. Selver.


Mr. Selver must pay the TCIG’s legal costs in the Supreme Court and in the Court of Appeal.

 

"We welcome the Court of Appeal's ruling in this pivotal land case," stated the Attorney General Hon. Rhondalee Braithwaite Knowles OBE KC. "This decision vindicates our steadfast efforts to clarifying the impact of the Crown Land Ordinance on some of the legacy matters that we are seeking to bring to a close. This judgement is another helpful decision of our courts that clarifies the Crown Land Ordinance’s governance over the disposition of Crown Land since its enactment.


“The judgment reaffirms the Government's authority to act in the best interests of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands and ensures responsible stewardship of our finite land resources."


The Attorney General Chambers said further that the successful appeal outcome is a testament to the diligence and expertise of the Government's legal team, whose tireless advocacy and meticulous preparation were instrumental in securing this favorable verdict for the Government. It noted that their dedication to advancing the Government's case and upholding the principles of justice and fairness have been commendable.


"The Government is very grateful to the Court of Appeal for their thorough consideration of the legal issues at hand and their commitment to delivering just and equitable outcomes" added the Attorney General. "This ruling provides clarity and certainty for all stakeholders involved and underscores the importance of transparent and accountable Crown Land practices."

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